Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Spring 2023 Newsletter

Leveraging Partnerships, Thinking Outside the Box, and Changing the World!

One of the things I love about my job is the freedom to be creative in how we talk about and do “diversity, equity and inclusion” work in Worthington Schools. Last September, I was thrilled to speak at OSU’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) meeting. J.D. Mooney, a current OSU student studying Strategic Communication & Public Affairs and a 2020 TWHS graduate, extended the invitation and set the stage for an amazing partnership that was soon to blossom!

It was at this meeting that I met their advisor and Professor Mary Sterenberg. Professor Sterenberg teaches a Public Relations Campaign class. And for their capstone project, her students take on a client and create campaigns to address specific issues or needs as identified by the client. I was intrigued and also reminded of a similar experience I had from my days working at Abercrombie & Fitch where our DEI team partnered with a graduate class at Georgetown University. The wheels in my brain started to churn. I asked her; “ Have you ever had a school district as a client? If not, could Worthington Schools be your first?” In fact, they had never taken on a school district as a client - but loved the idea!

Not only did Professor Sterenberg think a school district would make a fascinating client, she loved that it was Worthington Schools. To my surprise, Professor Sterenberg is the parent of three Worthington Schools students and was even more excited to be partnering with us on this project because it would have a “direct impact on her children, family and community.”

After sharing the potential positive impact of this project with HR Director, Jeff Maddox and Assistant Superintendent, Angie Adrean, they could also see the potential and said “yes!” We were on our way to leveraging this partnership to think outside the box and Change the World!

We asked the students to create a campaign that would:

  1. Create interest in the field of education while helping us understand why students aren't choosing to be a teacher

  2. Position Worthington Schools as the district of choice for quality teachers & quality minority teachers

Throughout the semester, students asked questions about our recruiting process, DEI programs, scoured our social media platforms and asked for our assistance in surveying some of our teachers. It was a great collaborative process that culminated in six great student campaign presentations on April 18th.

The team pictured below presented the “winning” campaign called #DearFutureTeacher, which totally impressed us! Their solution was to address these issues with an emotionally appealing video campaign that will reposition the current perception of the profession. Their research indicated that 51% of the students they surveyed said that diversity in the workplace makes a job more appealing to them. Of the teachers they surveyed ages 20-25, 87% believed that Worthington Schools currently stands out as a quality employer of diverse candidates.

While we were required to select one group whose campaign pitch resonated with us the most, every group shared ideas that we liked. We are looking forward to leveraging solutions from this group as well as from all of the other groups. They definitely challenged us to think outside of the box so that we can empower our students to change the world!

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Understanding & Supporting Students with Disabilities

As a DEI Champion team, we spend a significant amount of time learning how we can better understand, support and create inclusive spaces for all Worthington Schools students. Given that April is Autism Acceptance Month, it was fitting that our April 12th meeting topic was

“Understanding & Supporting Students with Disabilities.”

As part of our professional development, we welcomed three guest speakers who spoke about their life experiences of navigating the public school education system with disability and being parents of a child with a disability. They each shared three words that described their reality in partnering with schools. While parents, Elaine Hamilton and Kylie Miles selected the words that ranged from “hopeful” to “disappointing””, Tykiah Wright-Wilson, a former student with a physical disability, captured her experience in these words: “valued, equitable and included.” And THIS is what we aspire to achieve in Worthington Schools - to be a place where every student feels seen, valued and heard.

This insightful 60-minute panel discussion helped our DEI Champions think critically about how they can lead and support their colleagues in ensuring that all of our classroom environments are welcoming and inclusive of students with disabilities.

Here are few “pearls of wisdom” that I took away from our guest speakers:

  • See the student first - and not the chair

  • Don’t assume (you know their capability), ask and then listen

  • Afford students the dignity of looking at them directly

  • Ask: “What do you need so that you can fully participate?”

(Pictured below L to R: Elaine Hamilton, Kylie Miles and Tykiah Wright-Wilson)

Tykiah Wright - Wilson, Founder & CEO of WrightChoice, Inc. / Sr. Director, National Diversity Council

Elaine Hamilton, Trainer& Information Specialist, The Ohio Coalition for The Education of Children with Disabilities.

Kylie Miles, Supervisor, Bureau of Children with Medical Handicaps - Ohio Department of Health / Co-Founder of Kya’s Krusade

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DEI Champions are Poised to Make a Big Impact in the District

This school year, the DEI Champions have been working in small groups on projects that have been wholly created by them. It was clear from last year’s feedback that they wanted to make a big impact! The District Impact Projects are designed to deliver on that goal - and potentially impact every building in the district.

Key Highlights:

  • DEI Champions have been working on these projects since December 2022

  • Each team will be submitting a Google slide presentations of their projects on May 10th

  • Each team will present project ideas to district leadership & others in administration

  • Projects will carry over into the 2023-24 school year and be a part of the DEI Champion’s work going forward.

Here’s an overview of the District Impact Projects.

DEI Monthly Resources

Supporting our teachers and staff in their awareness and understanding of the richness of the diversity of families in Worthington is important. To that end, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion provides resources to teachers and staff every month.

The DEI Resources Guide engages the adults in expanding their knowledge, accessing book lists, lesson plans and activities that are easily integrated into the classroom. The Ms. Toya Reads video series caters to preK and elementary students and allows them to hear stories about kids from all different backgrounds and prompting discussions on how they can be friends that respect and include others.

While we have been providing these resources since 2021, we wanted to gather feedback on the usage as well as the perceived value. So, in the Fall 2022, we sent out a DEI Resources Survey to teachers. We received 202 responses from the 815 teachers in the school district.

DEI Resources Guide Survey Results

  • Nearly 53% of our teachers use the Cultural Resource Guides

  • 96% (of the 53% of teachers that use the guides) found them helpful

Comments from teachers:

“I use the information for my own knowledge as someone who should be well-educated while working with youth!”

“It helps me build a connection to all students.”

“They have been beneficial in my understanding of how different groups might observe or celebrate during each month. They have also helped inform my book selections for my course and classroom library.”

“Ms Toya reads” video series Survey Results

  • 64% of teachers show the Ms Toya reads videos to their students

  • 89% (of the 64% of teachers that show the videos) believe the videos are helpful

Comments from teachers:

“It's a nice way to have a "guest reader" on topics that we are already discussing.”

“It is so amazing to have books on holidays and events that are already prepared with thoughtful questions that I can just show my children during morning meetings.”

“5th Graders love these videos! It is such an easy, accessible way to share different cultures, celebrations, lifestyles that kids might not otherwise be exposed to.

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